Pork Cuts Get New Names Meant to Make Choosing and Cooking a Pork Chop Easier

New Cuts of Pork

For many years, one of the naming conventions for competitive barbecue cooking teams has been a play on the “other name” for the shoulder round of a pig. That succulent dark meat is typically part of any good barbecue cooker’s repertoire, mainly because it’s a beautiful cut with a huge portion of flavorful muscle and a fat cap that melts deliciously into the meat as it cooks slowly over coals. The portion, taken from the meaty area just above the front legs, typically contains a piece of the shoulder blade that absorbs heat and helps the inside of the meat cook.

Despite its virtues, the poor shoulder cut has struggled with an image problem for years after being unceremoniously dubbed the “pork butt.” That’s why in a database of barbecue team names, you’re likely to find a half dozen or more teams with names that start with the word “butt” or a variant thereof, including Butt Naked BBQ and Butt Shakers. That’s not to mention the hundreds more teams that have the word somewhere else in the name, including Bite My Butt and Smell Our Butts.

According to a Boston.com piece on pork shoulder, the name comes from the casks, also called “butts” that lesser cuts of meat were packed into in colonial America for shipping or storage. The folks in Boston ought to know the history, because the cut is also called a Boston butt since so many of them were processed at America’s chief port – Boston – in those days.

Back in those days, the shoulder cut was considered undesirable or “lesser” because it is hard to cook well. Unless you’re willing to put a lot of time into cooking it slowly, the fat cap and marbling of the shoulder makes it pretty difficult to deal with. Down in the South, though, some pioneering folks were looking for ways to make dinner on the cheap. They struck on slowly cooking lesser cuts like the shoulder “low and slow” over coals, a process that rendered them perfectly delicious.

Anyway, names like pork butt and boneless shoulder top blade chop don’t do a lot to entice consumers into buying those pieces, nor do they tell much about what they are. And the long list of descriptors for pork chops – like bone-in, center-cut, and top loin – didn’t mean much to the average consumer. The folks at the National Pork Council, who look out for the industry and work to market the meat, recognized they had a naming conundrum.

Meanwhile, most any elementary-aged child in America could tell you which beef steak they prefer, whether ribeye or sirloin, New York strip or porterhouse.

The pork people took a lesson and decided to introduce some new names for their cuts, which you can see below. They believe the move will help differentiate the cuts while also making them easier for the average consumer to identify, which means making them easier to cook and more appealing to eat, since you know what to expect. The names were concocted through a collaboration of the National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff program. They’ve already gotten the approval of the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards organization (who knew there were so many meat associations, right?), so they should be showing up in your local meat case soon.

(P.S. The pork butt is now the Boston roast or shoulder roast, names that have been used alongside butt to describe the meat.)

Chart of new pork cuts

Derek Hodges
Derek Hodges

Derek Hodges is a proud North Carolinian who moved to Tennessee in 2006 to preach the gospel of Cheerwine and mix some Tar Heel blue in with all the orange. He has made wonderful friends who tolerate occasional remarks like those above. He and his wife Amanda enjoy spending weekends at Dollywood and trying to convince their dog Shiloh to get over his fear of swimming.

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